Posts Tagged ‘thomas paine’

Republican Anarchism/Libertarian Republicanism

Aibreán 17, 2009

This in response to a thread at

Some extracts on Libertarian Republicanism, and the adaptation of universalist, general ideas to local, specific contexts —

Republican ideals & Anarchist thought:

“Two substantive aspects of anarchist thought…: the alternative conception of social contract elaborated in Proudhon’s ‘mutualism’ as a way of addressing the tendency towards factions or ‘coalitions of the willing’ in international society; and the wider influence of ‘republican’ ideals of civic virtue on anarchist thinking leading to a ‘republican anarchist’ conception of the society of states – an inchoate international republicanism without the state – where state autonomy is integrated with active participation in issues concerning the ‘common good’.”
Kazmi, Zaheer. “Rethinking Anarchy: ‘Classical’ Anarchist Thought and International Society” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Le Centre Sheraton Hotel, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Mar 17, 2004. 2009-04-14

Thomas Jefferson’s “Little Republics” and the United Irishmen:

Jefferson’s proposal of the ward republic represented an attempt on his part to supply greater security to the political rights of citizens by overcoming anemia (a potential vulnerability in liberal polities) and encouraging citizen vigilance.
Webb, Derek. “Jefferson’s Ward Republic: Political Rights and an Engaged Citizenry” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The Midwest Political Science Association, Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, Illinois, . 2009-02-05

Thomas Jefferson idealistically remained attached to and hopeful of putting into practice his classical republican ideas. This paper analyzes Jefferson’s ward democracies and how they intended to support public education and active citizenship.
“… ward republics, which were to be divisions within each county ‘of such size as that every citizen can attend, when called on, and act in person’ to govern locally… Unlike many of the founders, Jefferson believed that a republic must be established on more than mere consent, and many of his republican proposals were considered by his critics to be of the ‘levelling’ sort… he was advocating his ‘little republics… where every man is a sharer in the direction of his ward… and feels that he is a participant in the government… not merely at an election one day in the year, but every day…”
Dotts, Brian. “Thomas Jefferson’s Ward Republics and a Defense of Classical Republicanism” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The Midwest Political Science Association, Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, Illinois, Apr 20, 2006 . 2009-02-05

Among the thousands of political refugees who flooded into the United States during the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, none had a greater impact on the early republic than the United Irishmen. They were, according to one Federalist, “the most God-provoking Democrats on this side of Hell.” “Every United Irishman,” insisted another, “ought to be hunted from the country, as much as a wolf or a tyger.” […]
[…] America served a powerful symbolic and psychological function for the United Irishmen as a place of wish-fulfillment, where the broken dreams of the failed Irish revolution could be realized. The United Irishmen established themselves on the radical wing of the Republican Party, and contributed to Jefferson’s “second American Revolution” of 1800; John Adams counted them among the “foreigners and degraded characters” whom he blamed for his defeat. After Jefferson’s victory, the United Irishmen set out to destroy the Federalists and democratize the Republicans. Some of them believed that their work was preparing the way for the millennium in America. Convinced that the example of America could ultimately inspire the movement for a democratic republic back home, they never lost sight of the struggle for Irish independence. It was the United Irishmen[…] who originated the persistent and powerful tradition of Irish-American nationalism.

Bolton Hall & the “Free Acres” community:

“Selections from Free America and other works” Bolton Hall
(Introduction by Mark Sullivan)
(p.1) “Bolton Hall was a pioneer of what we may cal ‘alternative economics’ – what E.F. Schumacher’s ‘Small is Beautiful’ ppopularized as ‘Economics as if Prople Mattered’…”
(p.2-3)”Bolton Hall was born August 5, 1854 in Ireland. He came to America in 1867 with his parents when his father had been chosen pastor of the 5th Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York… he took up the study of law, and founded the American Longshoreman’s Union. […] He took part in other movements tending in anarchist or libertarian directions […] Moving among these radical circles [he] eventually met Emma Goldman. Despite their differences on how best to realize a free society, they became friends and mutual supporters through thick and thin…”

Founding of Free Acres
In 1910 Bolton Hall (1854-1938), a follower of Henry George, founded Free Acres. Hall’s background and intellectual predilections were strikingly similar to those of George. The son of a prominent New York City Presbyterian minister, Hall also combined religious and economic views to argue that humankind should serve as the “stewards” of the land. Hall’s philosophy is a combination of the law of love enunciated by Jesus, the economic views of Henry George, and the political rights of people defined by Thomas Jefferson.
He also followed American anarchists and antistatists in the tradition of Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and John Brown. He was influenced by his contemporary anarchists like Russians Leo Tolstoy and Pyotr Kropotkin, Englishman William Morris and American Emma Goldman. He believed that governments generally interfere unjustly with individual liberty and should be replaced by the voluntary association of cooperative groups. He held a vision of small cooperative communities in which simple life can maximize opportunity for individual self-expression.
He founded Free Acres to serve as a working experiment in local democracy, a living testament to his beliefs. He had an abiding faith in small communities, that liberty, justice and greater equality would prevail among the face to face relationships provided by the Free Acres monthly meeting. Free Acres would be able to avoid the onerous burden of bureaucracy and the futility of civil service reform that he associated with state socialism.

Jim Larkin, James Connolly, and the Revolutionary Syndicalism of Chicago culture & the IWW:

“The Rise & Fall of the Dil Pickle: Jazz-Age Chicago’s Wildest & Most Outrageously Creative Hobohemian Nightspot”
Founded in 1914 by former Wobbly Jack Jones, Irish revolutionist Jim Larkin, and a group of fantastic IWW-oriented Bughouse Square hobos and soapboxers, the Dil Pickle in just a few years was widely recognized as the wildest, most playful, most creative, and most radical nightspot…

Industrial workers of the World: James Connolly
First and foremost James Connolly was a Socialist. And when asked to elaborate on his Socialist theory, he would always advocate Revolutionary Syndicalism. Readers of James Connolly may react by saying that almost nowhere in Connolly’s work can any mention of Syndicalism be found. This is simply because Connolly preferred to use the term ‘Industrial Unionism’ to Syndicalism.

Jack White: Anarchist & Christian Communist

Jack White proposed the idea of workers’ militia, the Irish Citizens Army (ICA) in 1913 and played a key role in its early development and organisation. In April 1916 he was arrested in south Wales for attempting to organise a strike of miners in support of James Connolly.
In 1931, White was involved in a bitter street battle between unemployed workers and the RUC on the Newtownards Road in Belfast. 1936 at the age of 57 he travelled to Spain (as part of a Red Cross ambulance crew) to help fight fascism. Here he gravitated towards the anarchist CNT.
Impressed by the revolution that had unfolded in Spain, White was further attracted to the anarchist cause due to his own latent anti-Stalinism

“It is a fact, that the Barcelona churches were burnt, and many of them, where roof and walls are still standing, are used to house medical or commissariat stores instead of, as previously, being used by the fascists as fortresses. I suspect their present function is nearer the purpose of a religion based by its founder on the love of God and the Neighbour.”
First Spanish Impressions, Nov. 1936
“White travelled to Bohemia… lived in a ‘Tolstoyan’ commune in England and then travelled and worked in Canada… declaring himself to be a ‘Christian Communist’. He declared that ‘he was not prepared to go forward as the representative of any class or party, but only of a principle – the voluntary change to communal ownership of the land – and – the gradual withering of the poisoned branches of standing armies, prisons and the workhouse system.'”


[Analysis] 1791 Declaration of the United Irishmen

Meán Fómhair 7, 2008

My comments and quotes of other material are in italics; Declaration of the United Irishmen is indented; bolded emphasis is mine. I am not aware of anyone else who has tried to analyse the intellectual parallels between the US Declaration of Independence and the United Irishmen Declaration – If you are aware of any such material, please let me know:

In the present great era of reform, when unjust Governments are falling in every quarter of Europe;

This was during what is now referred to as the “Age of Revolution“: from the last decades of the 18th Century, to the first decades of the 19th, revolts, revolutions and national independence movements occurred in the Americas and in Europe – often prompted by Enlightenment ideas – and challenging monarchical, aristocratic, and imperial states and institutions – including slavery, and state-enforced religious discrimination.

when religious persecution is compelled to abjure her tyranny over conscience;

when the rights of man are ascertained in theory, and that theory substantiated by practice;

The “Rights of Man” was a treatise written in 1791 by American founding father and patriot, Thomas Paine, in response to Edmund Burke‘s attack on the French Revolution of 1789 – “Reflections on the Revolution in France” (it was also in the later 1793 title of a 1775 pamphlet – “The Real Rights of Man” – by British radical, Thomas Spense).

Paine was the Paris roommate of (Declaration author) Wolfe Tone‘s fellow patriot and confidante, “Citizen” Lord Edward Fitzgerald (himself a veteran of the British Army in North America); Paine was also declared an honorary United Irishman as a result of his influence and esteem – consider also the parallel between “United States of America” (a phrase coined by Paine) and the “Society of United Irishmen“;

Paine was – as were other prominent US Founding Fathers such as Jefferson and Franklin – a Deist, who promoted freedom of conscience and religious tolerance in his other great work: “The Age of Reason”.

when antiquity can no longer defend absurd and oppressive forms against the common sense and common interests of mankind;

Common Sense” was one the titles of a series of pamphlets written by Paine, that George Washington acknowledged as helping inspire many Americans into open revolution. “Common interest” may also be a synonym for the latin “res publica“, which can be translated or read as “the public thing”, “the public matter”, and is further developed as “the public interest”, common good”, “commonwealth”, or as a form of government: “republic”;

when all Government is acknowledged to originate from the people, and to be so far only obligatory as it protects their rights and promotes their welfare;

Consider the parallel with the US version:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

“Government by the people, for the people, and of the people” is the famous American dictum; the American Declaration of Independence bases its moral and philosophical force on what might be regarded as the breach of social-contract (a theory of political legitimacy propounded by John Locke, and which influenced American Founding Fathers) by the British Crown.

The United States’ Declaration was primarily written by Thomas Jefferson, who would later (while the second President under the US Constitution) make very important and influential allies of Irish radicals who had escaped after the 1798 and 1803 rebellions, in a major political realignment known as “the Second American Revolution” of the 1800 election (see “United Irishmen, United States: Immigrant Radicals in the Early Republic” by Donald A. Wilson, Cornell University Press (May 1998), ISBN-10: 0801431751, ISBN-13: 978-0801431753);

we think it our duty, as Irishmen, to come forward, and state what we feel to be our heavy grievance, and what we know to be its effectual remedy.

This parallels the American Declaration, which also laid out a schedule of grievances (as justification for total popular revocation of unjust rule – whereas the Irish at the time were not yet declaring complete independence, but rather a schedule of necessary remedies); Consider:

…But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security…

…Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world…

We have no national Government— we are ruled by Englishmen, and the servants of Englishmen whose object is the interest of another country, whose instrument is corruption, and whose strength is the weakness of Ireland; and these men have the whole of the power and patronage of the country as means to seduce and subdue the honesty and spirit of her representatives in the legislature.

Such an extreme power, acting with uniform force, in a direction too frequently opposite to the true line of our obvious interests, can be resisted with effect solely by unanimity, decision and spirit in the people — qualities which may be exerted most legally, constitutionally, and efficaciously by that great measure essential to the prosperity, and freedom of Ireland — an equal representation of all the people in Parliament. We do not here mention as grievances the rejection of a place-bill, of a pension bill, of a responsibility-bill, the sale of peerages in one house, the corruption publicly avowed in the other, nor the notorious infamy of borough traffic between both, not that we are insensible to their enormity, but that we consider them as but symptoms of that mortal disease which corrodes the vitals of our constitution, and leaves to the people in their own government but the shadow of a name.

Impressed with these sentiments, we have agreed to form an association to be called “The Society of United Irishmen,” and we do pledge ourselves to our country, and mutually to each other, that we will steadily support and endeavour, by all due means, to carry into effect the following resolutions:

FIRST RESOLVED: That the weight of English influence on the Government of this country is so great as to require a cordial union among all the people of Ireland to maintain that balance which is essential to the preservation of our liberties and the extension of our commerce.

SECOND: That the sole constitutional mode by which this influence can be opposed is by a complete and radical reform of the representation of the people in Parliament.

THIRD: That no reform is practicable, efficacious, or just, which shall not include Irishmen of every religious persuasion. Satisfied, as we are, that the intestine divisions among Irishmen have too often given encouragement and impunity to profligate, audacious and corrupt administrations, in measure which, but for these divisions, they durst not have attempted, we submit our resolutions to the nation as the basis of our political faith. We have gone to what we conceive to be the root of the evil. We have stated what we conceive to be the remedy. With a Parliament thus reformed, everything is easy; without it, nothing can be done. And we do call on, and most earnestly exhort, our countrymen in general to follow our example, and to form similar societies in every quarter of the kingdom for the promotion of constitutional knowledge, the abolition of bigotry in religion and politics, and the equal distribution of the rights of men through all sects and denominations of Irishmen. The people, when thus collected, will feel their own weight, and secure that power which theory has already admitted to be their portion, and to which, if they be not aroused by their present provocation to vindicate it, they deserve to forfeit their pretensions for ever.